Here’s how the reasoning goes.

  1. Bloggers give reviews of goods and services.
  2. Some of these bloggers received payment for these reviews in the form of free goods and/or money.
  3. Most of the bloggers in #2 do not tell their readers that they have been compensated for their writings.
  4. This compensated writing constitutes a business relationship with the company whose product you are reviewing.
  5. To not disclose this would constitute a conflict of interest.
  6. Consumers believe your review as a third party is unbiased because this conflict of interest is unknown to them.
  7. Businesses are required to inform the public about conflicts of interest in their advertising, which includes customer testimonials, and spokesman.
  8. Therefore they are going to start enforcing powers they already have on the blogosphere under the impression that any blog review may potentially be  a compensated spokesman.

So far it’s not so bad.  Juat do what television commercials have to do. Put some small print at the bottem that says “Paid Spokesman” or “Reviewer has been paid for their opinion”.  The first instance covers traditional “employees” and the second covers “person off the street that got a $10 gift card for giving thier opinion to our marketers”.

The problem arises when I get paid by by Google AdSense.  I did not get paid by google to give an opinion, but the ads are typically for the thing I was reviewing.  Does this now count as be being “compensated” and therefore I need to put a disclaimer on my site?  If I link to Amazon after giving a review of a game, and you follow the link, and i get a commission because you got to Amazon from my site, does this count as conflict of interest?

I do think we need to stop Marketing Campaigns that try to push themselves off as grass roots – personal opinion, (Looking Right at you Sony), but I also know that the government is not the best with making clear rules.  I ‘m afraid if all blogs will now need a standard disclaimer at the beginning of every post, it will actually be harder, not easier to separate the flogs from honest opinion.

DISCLAIMER:  I have received no money, gifts, BJ’s, or other niceties in exchange for this post.

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3 Comments

  • Dan Chi Sao

    This is something that I’ve thought about quite a bit while adding the AdSense to the site. Here’s my understanding:

    1)We (to date) have not been offered anything by any company that we have written an article about.
    2) The article is written and posted before we can receive any compensation from AdSense. Furthermore, AdSense randomly generates the ads for the pages; so, there’s no guarantee what ad a person will see.

    Since we receive no compensation and no offer of compensation before the posting of the article, we do not have conflict of interest. I may be wrong, but that is my understanding.

  • Kiraman Katibin

    Guess we’ll have to see how the FTC will react. I’m an optimistic guy, but the US Gov is not lauded for its ability to legislate the internet community effectively.

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